Boom and Bust

A steep increase in coal plant development in China offset a retreat from coal in the rest of the world in 2020, resulting in the first increase in global coal capacity development since 2015.

A record-tying 37.8 gigawatts (GW) of coal plants were retired in 2020, led by the U.S. with 11.3 GW and EU27 with 10.1 GW, but these retirements were eclipsed by China’s 38.4 GW of new coal plants. The proposal and construction boom in China began taking off in March 2020 as provinces used coal projects to stimulate their economies in the wake of the economic slowdown from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Policy shifts, along with the Covid-19 pandemic, contributed to a collapse of the coal plant pipeline in South and Southeast Asia as the global demand for electricity shrank, national economies contracted, and coal plant projects struggled to obtain financing.